Duran Duran recaptures sound from earlier work
By John Benson
The disco fad of the ’70s may forever get a bad rap, but it did introduce the notion of remixing a song into an extended version for dance clubs and occasionally the radio.
For ’80s fans of U2, Duran Duran and Depeche Mode or more recently The Killers, The Bravery and most hip-hop tracks, special long versions of favorite tunes are pretty special. The one disadvantage of such songs were their studio limitations, as in you’d never hear it produced in concert.
However, on U2’s recent tour, Bono and company broke the trend and actually pulled off a rave-like “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” in concert. It turns out Duran Duran, which back in the day has a killer long version of its definitive song “Hungry Like the Wolf,” recently has embraced the same notion.
“We do extend songs very much,” said Nick Rhodes, calling from Portland, Ore. “In fact, in this set we just extended ‘Planet Earth,’ which was the first song we ever put out. That’s a longer version, and with ‘Wild Boys,’ we stuck somebody else’s song in the middle. So we do mess around with things like that.”
Duran Duran is not afraid to mess around with its sound and style, which was evident on its 2007 album “Red Carpet.” The project found Simon LeBon and the band exploring hip-hop, which is not necessarily new ground for the outfit that often covered Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines [Don’t Don’t Do It]” in concert, as well as included its own version of the old-school rap track on its 1995 covers album “Thank You.”
Still, no matter how interesting teaming up Timbaland and Duran Duran for “Red Carpet” may have seemed on paper, fans didn’t agree, making it one of the group’s lesser-selling albums.
So when it came time to create the CD’s follow-up, Duran Duran turned to Grammy Award-winning producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Kaiser Chiefs and Madonna), who admittedly wanted the band to return to its root sound that produced hits such as “Rio,” “Girls on Film” and “Is There Something I Should Know?” The result is the brand-new CD “All You Need Is Now,” with the band rediscovering electronic pulses, layered synthesizers, heavy vocal harmonies, dance grooves and rock guitars. For Rhodes, it was like going home again.
“We spent about five years of our career setting up the sound and then the next 25 years moving away from it,” Rhodes said. “This one, we wanted to get back more toward organic playing. The analogy I’ve been using is something Picasso said, which is he spent his whole life learning how to paint like a child again. And there is something about that that is so true because when you’re not afraid to do something, you just do it. And when you try too hard and you move away from that, it’s difficult to get back to it.”
A re-energized Duran Duran returns to Cleveland for a show Wednesday at the State Theatre. Naturally, when the group visits Cleveland, talk of the band’s chances of being inducted into the Rock Hall comes up.
“To be honest, we don’t really think about awards and accolades,” Rhodes said. “It’s great when you get them; they’re just a bonus. We’ve been in there, we’ve visited — and it’s a real credit to the city.”